Fukushima village harvests first wine grapes

People in a village in Fukushima Prefecture have gathered the first harvest of wine grapes grown as part of efforts to help the village recover from the 2011 nuclear accident.

About 30 people, including farmers and volunteers, worked together on a four-hectare vineyard in the village of Kawauchi on Sunday. They picked Chardonnay grapes, a variety used to make white wine.

People in the village started growing grapes four years ago after the evacuation order issued due to the nuclear disaster was lifted. They want to make wine a new local specialty.

The villagers have planted more than 10,000 grapevines. They initially planned to start harvesting and producing wine last year. But production was postponed due to a poor harvest caused by bad weather.

About 500 kilograms of harvested grapes will be made into wine at a winery in Yamanashi Prefecture, near Tokyo. The village's first wine is expected to become available next year.

Kawauchi Mayor Endo Yuko said he was so excited about the harvest that he couldn't sleep the night before.

He also said he is confident that wine production will become a new business that helps the village recover.